Labour in the extractive industries

In my work on artisanal gold mining I have studied the labour process and the regulation of labour markets in Congolese gold mines. Current changes in global gold mining – with the increasing presence of TNCs relying on skilled and subcontracted labour and the increasing mechanization of artisanal mining – are also transforming local labour markets. In a workshop organized by dr. Boris Verbrugge in September 2016, such issues were discussed.

I have convened a panel on ‘Labour (markets) in extractive industries’ at the European Conference on African Studies (ECAS 2017) in Basel, 29 June- 1 July 2017. Here is the detailed programme:


Panel I. Discussant: Boris Verbrugge

  • Labour, networks, and inequality in the Congolese Copperbelt

Author: Benjamin Rubbers (Université de Liège)

This paper offers an overview of the changes brought to labour by new mining investors in the Congolese copperbelt over the past two decades. In doing so, it sheds new light on how new mining projects become embedded in local society, and contribute to the production of new inequalities

  • Job recruitment and political interventions in an emerging mining town of Burkina Faso

Author: Diana Ayeh (University of Leipzig)

This paper addresses the impact of the opening of an industrial gold mine on “local labor” in a provincial town of Burkina Faso. It focuses on interventions of politicians and civil society actors with regard to notions of “local content”.

  • Comptoirs: the political geography of small-scale gold mining labour in Burkina Faso

Author: Muriel Côte (University of Zürich)

Small-scale gold mining has boomed at the margins of the law throughout the world. Yet not all is informal. In Burkina Faso 974kg were officially produced in 2014 and declared by 91 gold comptoirs. This paper examines the difference that comptoirs make in labour arrangements in Burkina Faso.

  • Labour control in extractives: the changing role of local elites in the DRCongo

Authors: Sara Geenen and Jeroen Cuvelier (University of Antwerp)

This paper examines the changing role of local elites in accessing and controlling mining rents and labour, drawing on empirical research from multiple Congolese mining sites and across different time periods.

Panel II. Discussant: Sara Geenen

  • Building a Labor Market: TVET for Extractives in Northern Mozambique

Author: Mollie Gleiberman (IOB, University of Antwerp)

The paper analyzes the role of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) for the liquefied natural gas industry in Mozambique. It argues that TVET programs seeking to address resource curse effects through employment do not simply impart skills; they produce new worker subjectivities.

  • Between dependence and self-employment: the ambiguous nature of labour and the changing models in the organization of work in artisanal gold mines (Western Burkina Faso)

Author: Cristiano Lanzano (The Nordic Africa Institute (Uppsala, Sweden))

The organization of work in artisanal gold mines of Western Burkina Faso combines dependence with individual ownership and self-employment: the ambiguous status of the workforce can serve as a tool for adaptation in a context marked by technological change and conflicting ownership claims.

  • Moral economies of labour in informal gold mining: the case of artisanal gold mining at Kenyasi, Ghana

Author: Samuel Okyere (University of Nottingham)

This presentation draws on ethnographic data to explore the formation of an artisanal gold mining site, how it is organised and governed, its labour practices and other circumstances surrounding life at the site. It challenges some popular accounts about life and work at artisanal gold mining sites

  • South-South labour migration and the scramble for Ghana’s gold resources: the impact of the informal China-Ghana gold rush 2008-13

Author: Gordon Crawford (Coventry University) and Nicholas Loubere

This paper examines an unusual element of the recent scramble for African resources: the entry into Ghana between 2008 & 2013 of approx. 50,000 Chinese irregular migrants to engage in small-scale gold mining, and the impact on the livelihoods of both Chinese & Ghanaian miners and on local markets.